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How I Created Snack Food Products From Humble Ingredients

Rachel Steinford
Rachel Steinford

Chasin’ Dreams Farm was founded by Sydney Chasin and launched in the last year. Sydney has been a driving force behind making this company through creating and leading a team of dreamers. It was originally launched under the brand The Lil' Pops but later on they rebranded to Chasin' Dreams Farm, a brand for an exciting line of future snackventions.

Was it a lightbulb moment or gradual process of Chasin’ Dreams Farm?

This was a gradual process. I grew up in a small farm town of 150 people, Barnesville, Maryland. As a small farm town girl growing up on my family’s farm (the Chasin family farm), I’ve been gluten-free since I was 7 and have been snacking and crafting alternative ingredients for as long as I can remember. The farm I grew up on wasn’t your average farm (we even had a free-range pony, a chicken, and a goat). My mom was an artist and raised Shetland ponies, and my dad was a racecar driving, horseback riding, software engineer. My family’s kitchen floors were blue, walls were a vibrant yellow, the bedroom floors were purple and pink, and glitter was permanently caked onto our kitchen table. This was all such a magical experience that fostered creativity and imagination from a very young age. This was also a place where you could be yourself and dream big!

Sydney Chasin - Founder

When I graduated college, I realized that the corporate world was not for me. It was around this time that I entered an idea for an innovative new snack food brand into an ideas competition and won! My specific snack idea was a popped sorghum snack - the very same popped sorghum snack that Chasin’ Dreams Farm now creates today.

Sorghum

Sorghum is an incredible ancient grain that is non-GMO, naturally gluten-free, and even super sustainable.  And while popped sorghum looks like miniature popcorn, it is entirely corn-free.

This officially kicked off the start of my entrepreneurial journey! What started off as a small idea to take to farmers’ markets, quickly turned into a greater vision to become an iconic snack brand - a home for better-for-you, more FUN for you, clean label snacks.

Chasin Dreams products

Now, Chasin’ Dreams Farm is a snack food brand that creatively crafts new snack experiences by transforming humble ingredients that are good for both you and the planet, into delicious little flavor bombs!

How did you get your first three customers?

We received our first customer from an online application that we had submitted in order to be invited to pitch to one of our target retail partners. The second customer discovered us through this initial account and reached out cold to us on our website. As a tiny brand, having a big buyer discover us was by far one of the greatest wins!  Now our third customer, I actively sought out. I had sent cold emails and had a strong follow-up game, and finally got the meeting!

How did you validate the idea?

To validate our popped sorghum snacking idea, we started small, and I mean super small! We were hand labeling bags (I used to have “sticker parties” with my friends where we’d label bags for HOURS on end) and producing tiny batches out of a commercial kitchen. This was probably one of the hardest things, both mentally and physically to do, but we wanted to get in front of consumers and buyers and learn quickly! In our very first account, we would do lots of in-store demos and ask consumers what they liked and what they would change! We picked up on body language and ways people were engaging with our products! This gave us great confidence in what we had created, of course making some iterations based on feedback as well, and allowed us to take the next step in securing larger customers! Once customers were secured (another validation point!), we made the move from tiny kitchen production to a large manufacturing plant!

Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?

Absolutely none! We just put one foot in front of the other and were figuring things out as we went along! At the beginning, when it was just me, everything took a long time to figure out because I was learning everything from scratch. Now with an amazing team of people, things move a lot faster . . . and we make fewer mistakes!

What is the funniest/most strange customer request you’ve had?

We are super engaged with our customers! We chat to almost everyone who slides into our DMs, run lots of surveys, and have worked with multiple companies on consumer insights! We’ve definitely gotten some quirky suggestions and requests. I think my favorite was a request for a hot buffalo flavored tiny, lightly sweet pop, or a suggestion to change our packaging for every season and major holiday. But there are a lot of quirky ideas that we LOVE!

How did you fund the idea initially?

When I was just starting out, it was pretty bleak! I funded the idea initially with a waitressing job and maxed out a credit card! I’d work in a small co-working space during the day, our commercial kitchen on the weekends, then waitressed in the evenings. I’m exhausted just thinking back to those days! We had so little money, but I still wanted to be able to attend tradeshows, conferences, etc.! For one event, I flew to the conference, packed my snacks and display in a carry-on, and stayed in a 30-bed hostel dorm room so I could afford to be there! I felt like I was living a double life. Once we had some traction underneath us, we raised our first round of investment—game-changing!

Any tips for finding first employees?

Our tiny, but mighty, team is a combination of people I knew through building my network and cold applications on Indeed! My advice is to take your time hiring! Find the right people who fit the company and have the right chemistry with the team! We prioritize hiring for attitude and passion first, as opposed to only focusing on someone’s years of experience, and our interview process is thorough to make sure new hires align with our values! We are honest, transparent, hard-working, and LOVE to laugh!

Did you run any companies prior?

This is my first “grownup” startup! As a child, I was always starting little entrepreneurial ventures. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I was selling painted rocks and had a glorified lemonade stand—I even kept a mini P&L statement in my glitter notebook, too. And when I was 12, I sold my photography on stationery to little shops. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for creating and crafting!

What were your family and friends' first thoughts on your company?

My friends and family have been so incredibly supportive and I am so grateful for that! Both sides of my family have been small business entrepreneurs and love all things innovation. Some of my friends didn't quite understand why I would want to take on the stress of running a company or how I could make a career for myself making snacks—now that we are growing and in the market, they get it!

What motivates you when things go wrong?

Humor. Humor. Humor. It’s really important to me to “hold things lightly” and not get caught up in what’s not working. In startup land, more often than I’d like to admit, things do not go right! Shipments get lost, pallets fall off trucks, launches get delayed, it’s just how things happen! We laugh through the absurdity of things going wrong and do our best to remove our emotions to help us get to solutions faster and efficiently!

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

TRUST 👏 YOUR 👏 GUT 👏! Founders’ intuition is real and something quite remarkable. When starting out, there were times that I would know in my gut what the right thing to do was, but because of having less experience than others, I wouldn’t always listen to that! It sounds so simple, but it is powerful!

What is stopping you being 3x the size you are now?

Capital! We have many really huge exciting opportunities that we have to control the pace of our rollout because of resources! It’s super important to us to grow the business in a financially sustainable way, even if this slows down top-line growth.

How do you protect yourself from competition?

We make sure that we are innovative beyond product and brand—we take a creative approach,

Chasin Dreams products

and challenge the status quo in route to market, channel strategy, guerilla marketing, and who we are as a team.

Do you have any trademarks/IP/patents?

Yes. We have Trademarks!

What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without? Why are they essential?

Slack, Trello & Canva. I don’t know what we would do without them! Because we are a fully remote team working hours that suit us, we live in Slack! We have strict communication rules—no texting, Slack for internal communications only, and email for external communication! This allows us to keep conversations hyper-focused and send messages even if someone else is sleeping. Slack automatically shuts off notifications! It helps instill work/life balance! Trello is our project management hero and helps us organize projects and gives everyone visibility into what’s happening in the company, even things that might not be fully related to their focus. And for Canva, this allows our non-designer team to quickly throw together content, decks, presentations, etc.!

What are your favourite books?

Ramping Your Brand & Killing It

What are your favourite podcasts

Brand Builder & Business Casual

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

The grand vision for the brand is to have a range of snack-ventions! In 5 years, I see the company launching multiple lines of products into national distribution.

Would you ever sell?

We have big ambitions of becoming a household name for better-for-you, more FUN for you, clean label snacks and being part of a larger company and having access to their resources and insights would allow us to do that. So yes, absolutely to the right partner!

Company Name: Chasin’ Dreams Farm
Founder: Sydney Chasin
Interview

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